Hacked Gadgets Forum

September 15, 2009

Smart Power Grids

at 3:21 pm. Filed under Complex Hacks, Electronic Hacks, Insane Equipment

 

In the latest Electronic Products magazine there is a great article about the latest technology in smart power grids. Power Integrations is a leader in this field that is sure to be adopted widely. Subscribing to the Electronic Products magazine is free as long as you are in the USA. Hacked Gadgets does receive a small payment for each subscription to any of our Free Magazine Subscriptions so we appreciate the support from all who subscribe to the free magazines that we offer.

"As electric utility companies grapple with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the increasing costs and lead-times for introducing new generating capacity they are turning to the concept of the “smart grid.” One of the core elements of the smart grid is the smart power meter that communicates with both the energy supplier and the consumer to provide real-time information on energy consumption and cost.

The energy supplier’s biggest headache is catering for the peak loading on their electric network. Peak loads can be related to user demand, such as air conditioners in hot weather, or may be the result of equipment outages. The smart grid’s aim is to reduce the impact of peak loading both by changing user behavior and by directly controlling the consumer’s equipment. By leveling out the network load, utilities can more efficiently manage their generating and transmission capacity, saving cost and reducing emissions. Deploying the smart grid should provide equitably priced electricity for all customers through enhanced security, quality, reliability, and availability of power.

Smart meters communicating with a smart network will allow the utility to implement a variety of control and incentive programs, such as real-time variable pricing. With features like in-home energy displays or “eco-panels,” the consumer can be warned when a peak loading rate is being charged. They can then make an informed choice to switch off appliances such as dryers and postpone their use until a lower rate is available. With smart appliances or Demand Response Units (DRUs) controlling appliances in the home, the rescheduling of high consumption functions can be controlled directly by the utility via the smart meter."


 

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10 Responses to “Smart Power Grids”

  1. The voice in your head Says:

    So when the neighbour turns his fan on, mine will turn off?

  2. steve Says:

    Well, one of the downsides to having an all electronic, internet connected power grid like that is that during peak load, the power company can remotely shut off high yield appliances at your place. Or at least, that’s what I’ve heard. I’m sure you have to sign for it, but it’s probably in the fine print of the agreement you sign when you have them installed.
    Now, this could just be paranoia, or the like, but it is something to think about, at least, something I think about.

  3. Seamus Dubh Says:

    This is such a cop-out by the power companies.
    Instead of building more power plants and or generating more power to meet the demands of an ever increasing population. We decide to go the route of modified brownouts and blackouts. Yes we are using more electricity with ever increasing gadgets. but in turn we have been getting more and more efficient in that use none the less. Which in turn effects what they can charge customers. Now I do see some good coming out of this, better distribution, control casualty recovery; instead of the current pump out and hope it gets there. But there is still the dark side of it turning us into the most powerful ‘Third World’ country if abused.

  4. Alan Parekh Says:

    They have been doing it for a short while but I have never heard about it being done at this scale and sophistication.
    http://www.ucan.org/energy/electricity/california_energy_commission_wants_give_government_control_over_your_thermostat_during_emergency_events

  5. Lapichon Says:

    The real problem in electricity distribution is to handle the peak of demand (as electricity can not be stored on that scale). That means building enough supply to cover (lets say) 200% of the average consumption and having all the production centers to run at 50% of their capacity most of the time… A stupid waste of money that will appear on the bills.

    It’s a great step in making the consummer aware of their wrong habits.
    I’ve never seen a house with “feedback” from the network.. Making intelligent systems and responsible users will go through such innovations.

    Who really cares if the dishwasher runs in the evening or during the night?

    [Also, consider I'm not fully aware of how this system is used in the US.]

  6. The voice in your head Says:

    So maybe instead of a few big power plants constantly supplying everything, we need a lot of big batteries/capacitors scattered about supplying neighbourhoods? They can still get their power from the plants, but they should reduce the stress on the system when there’s a sudden spike in demand.

  7. ascott Says:

    @ Seamus. This is no cop-out. There are many utilities that would be happy to build generation, but the only generation that isn’t shut down is wind, solar and geothermal. Even in the case of these no one wants them in their back yard.
    Also this is nothing new. Many utilities have been using this technology for years to shut down pumps, water heaters, air conditioners, and many other high demand loads.

  8. Odin84gk Says:

    I have several problems with your writeup: (Note: I am a hardware design engineer that is creating part of the “smart meter” technology)

    1.) Power Integrations is a power supply IC company. They do a great job supporting meter manufacturers in power supply design, but they do NOTHING in relation to the smart grid. They are used in several meters on the “smart grid”, but they do not provide the communication protocol or industry standards.

    2.) “that is sure to be adopted widely.” This is 100% false. Whoever got this information must be talking to the wrong people and I’m beginning to believe the entire article was written by $$ instead of research.

    3.) The free subscription was asking for way too much information, so I was unwilling to sign up. I have enough vendors and I don’t know if I am allowed to give some of that information out.

    4.) “As electric utility companies grapple with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the increasing costs and lead-times for introducing new generating capacity they are turning to the concept of the “smart grid.””
    This is because of government regulations. The utilities want to build more power plants, but the environmental regulations and “carbon credits” is making the power generating segment a loosing market for utilities. In addition, the government bailout programs are causing utilities to stop their development plans to try and get some of the govt $$.

    5.) “Smart meters communicating with a smart network will allow the utility to implement a variety of control and incentive programs, such as real-time variable pricing. With features like in-home energy displays or “eco-panels,” the consumer can be warned when a peak loading rate is being charged. They can then make an informed choice to switch off appliances such as dryers and postpone their use until a lower rate is available. With smart appliances or Demand Response Units (DRUs) controlling appliances in the home, the rescheduling of high consumption functions can be controlled directly by the utility via the smart meter.”"
    This is true. The DRU is designed to connect to your air conditioner and water heater. When activated, it has the same effect as increasing your air conditioner from 70 degrees to 75 or more, or reducing the peak temperature of the water heater. The problem I have with tiered usage is that they just charge more instead of charging less at non-peak usage.
    If you are fortunate enough to be under a co-op, you are lucky. They are doing things for the benefit of the customer and the DRU and IHD’s will benefit your area. If you are under the investor-owned power companies, you are in a rough position. Good luck.

  9. Alan Parekh Says:

    Hi Odin84gk,

    Thanks for the feedback. The article was written by Silvestro Fimini from Power Integrations. I am sure one of your colleagues would get the magazine so you can have a look.

  10. Odin84gk Says:

    Ah, that makes more sense. Don’t get me wrong, I use the power integrations part and they are a great company for custom power supplies. If they are talking about their power supply efficiencies and designs, then they may be correct. However, the “Smart Grid” standards for communication and data collection is out of their league.

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